The likelihood is that you know and love someone who identifies as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. And the likelihood is (we expect) that you support them as you would any other person in your life. But how good an ally are you for them when it truly counts? What about when they are not present? How much work do you need to be doing on a daily basis to ensure that they have the same day to day life experiences as you do? What does it mean to be an ally? It means to value the importance of equality, acceptance, and respect for all—regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. And to show that you do too.
We teamed up with local charity Liberate to bring you a list of really important ways that you can be a better ally to those you love, as well as the wider community. Liberate is Guernsey registered charity established in 2014 to include, inform and support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) communities across the Channel Islands.
Read on to find out how you can be a better ally. Or perhaps you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and have been looking for a way to articulate how you would appreciate allyship from friends and family who want to step up. Whoever you are, this list will help.
Your number one job is to listen and believe the stories of other people’s experiences without prejudice or assumptions. Open your mind and learn how one person’s walk through life may look different to yours. You don’t have to speak or verbally prove your allyship. Just listen. If you then have questions to better understand, then ask them.
There is a lot that you can do to educate yourself too, without using your friends your own personal search engine. Take time to learn the correct terminology to use, to learn more about the history and the struggles that the community faces today.
Liberate say: “Listen to LGBTQ+ people, everyone’s identity is unique and they are the best authority on their identity, life and experiences. And educate yourself on LGBTQ+ issues, there are so many books, podcasts, videos and internet resources out there.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or be wrong, it is a learning process and as long as your intentions are good then most people won’t mind. Think less about saying the ‘right’ thing and more about treating LGBTQ+ people as you would anyone else.”
When you think about society and how we view sexuality and gender, most people will assume that you are straight until proven otherwise. This is why those who are not heterosexual are expected to announce it by coming out. If you are not expected to do that, then frankly, you are privileged in this regard. You are also privileged if you have never had to question your own identity - or correct other people when they incorrectly identify you. You are also privileged if you are able to walk down the street with someone you love without being acutely aware that people may be looking, judging or worse.
And with that privilege comes power. So recognise your privilege in this instance and own it. Don’t waste time feeling guilty about this - just check it and move forward with intent.
Liberate say: “Support people around you when they are on their journey of self-discovery. It’s scary coming out and working out who you are and we need all the positive assurance you can muster.”
The way in which the media portrays the LGBTQ community is often unrealistic. Be it the sassy best friend - or the most promiscuous in the group. They are often standalone characters too, without much backstory or a long-term partner or family. An LGBTQ+ person is not a novelty, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. This is slowly changing, but stereotypes can take a long time to break. And this can create an unconscious bias in your mind that affects the way you think and act, without you even realising it. In order to be a good ally, you need to challenge this in your mind. Don’t assume a person’s sexuality by their appearance, their mannerisms or their behaviour. Watch the pronouns you use when you first meet somebody and are getting to know them.
Don’t be afraid to get this wrong. When you put in the work, you won’t always be right, but you’ll always be learning.
Liberate say: “Don’t make assumptions about other people’s identity from their appearance and train yourself to stop using unnecessary gendered language for strangers.
Respect people’s pronouns, everyone slips up occasionally so get into the practice of correcting yourself quickly and moving on. Instead of saying sorry or drawing attention to the slip up, it is best to say thank you, use the correct pronoun, and then continue the conversation. If you are finding it difficult then practice saying it in your head, with a colleague or friend, or out loud in your own time.”
It can be very easy to use the wrong language when showing people that you support and accept them for who they are. Some of the most common, albeit well-meaning, ways is to say “I don’t even think of you as gay, I just think of you as a person” or “It doesn’t matter to me how you identify”. The issue here is that it should matter. There is no need to ignore or discount a part of someone’s identity, culture and being, in order to view them as “normal”. People all over the world are different and those differences should be celebrated. The LGBTQ+ community don’t want to be ignored, they want to be included. This is an important distinction.
As an ally, you need to remember that the opposite of prejudice is equality, not ignorance. Everyone in the world just wants to be seen and heard by those around them.
Liberate say: “Uplift the most marginalised voices in the community. Trans people, people of colour, bi people and disabled people face the most discrimination and exclusion even from within the community, so it is so important to support these groups and acknowledge their validity and existence.”
There are some times in life when phrases that have unfortunately become commonplace will hit you differently. And many people don’t even realise what they are saying. Phrases such as “that’s so gay” and “what a homo” can be harmful and offend very easily. So, if you have ever casually used a phrase like this, then correct yourself moving forward and try to (kindly) speak up when you hear others doing the same.
It can be hard to stand up to friends and family, but it’s important to be a voice for everyone if you want to see change. You need to be an active and consistent ally, not just say you are and still avoid uncomfortable situations. Push yourself towards action more regularly.
Liberate say: “Speak up for LGBTQ+ people especially when they are not in the room. Correcting people’s language if they use derogatory terms or ‘banter’ that perpetuates negative stereotypes. 98% of LGBTQ+ young people are distressed when they hear that phrased used as a catch all term for something bad or negative.”
We asked “What would you like to change to make the world easier for LGBTQ+ people?”
Here is a list of the top 5 responses:
To find out more about the work that Liberate do, visit liberate.gg
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